SMC’s Bulacan airport seen operational in 3 to 4 years

Richmond Mercurio (The Philippine Star) - February 15, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Bulacan airport project, a new gateway seen as an alternative to the congested Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila, may be ready by 2022 should construction starts this year.

Transportation Undersecretary Ruben Reinoso said the development of the Bulacan international airport would be undertaken in phases by conglomerate San Miguel Corp. (SMC) in line with the Department of Transportation (DOTr)’s policy of projects having “partial operability.”

Reinoso said SMC has committed to make the first phase of the project operational in three to four years, which will include two runways and a capacity of 35 million passengers.

“Phase two is another 40 million (capacity), but of course that will depend on the growth of traffic and demand. There’s no point in building the facility if there’s no demand,” he said.

Reinoso said the Department of Finance (DOF) had earlier sought clarification on the planned phased implementation of the airport project.

“What they (DOF) were saying is that when there was no such phased implementation when it was submitted to the NEDA. But we told them that is the policy of the DOTr, which is partial operability,” Reinoso said.

“So we want to do it in phases, so that once a phase is completed, we want it operational immediately. We will not anymore wait for the entire facility to be completed to operate it. Because once you wait for that, then it may take a while before it becomes operational. For us, as soon there is a terminal and a runway already, then you should start operations immediately,” he said.

SMC president Ramon Ang earlier said his group is hopeful it could hit the ground running on actual construction of the project this year.

Reinoso said the target remains to have the Swiss challenge for the project conducted within the first quarter.

“We created a special bids and awards committee in the DOTr. Hopefully in a couple of weeks we will undertake Swiss challenge. We’re working on terms of reference for the Swiss challenge now,” he said.

Reinoso said “the sooner, the better” for the proponent to start with the construction.

“NAIA has outlived its usefulness obviously. There is nothing you can really do. You can’t even fit in a second runway. So it is safe for us that a new airport can be put in place,” he said.

The development of the Bulacan airport is part of the DOTr’s multi-airport strategy to decongest Manila’s NAIA which serves as the country’s main international gateway.

The P754 billion airport development of San Miguel Holdings Corp. in Bulacan province, dubbed as the New Manila International Airport project, was granted approval by the NEDA in April last year.

The project involves the construction of a world-class, major international gateway with four to six parallel runways, modern terminals, a sea port, an industrial zone, and necessary infrastructure such as expressways.

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